The Austin Chronicle

SBOE Votes a Little Ethnicity

By Michael King, April 11, 2014, 12:34pm, Newsdesk

In a 12-2 vote today, the State Board of Education approved a proposal that will allow local school districts to develop courses in Mexican-American, African-American, Asian-American and Native American studies. The move was a compromise; advocates had asked for the addition of a Mexican-American elective to the official curriculum.

After a preliminary vote earlier this week, board member Marisa Perez told the Texas Tribune that while the proposal isn't necessarily what she was hoping for, "it's a step in the right direction." Although there are literally hundreds of elective courses in the state curriculum on a whole range of student interests, conservative opponents object to ethnic studies courses as "divisive." Supporters argued that it's long past time that such standard scholarly fields be included in the state curriculum, especially in the case of Mexican-American studies, directly concerning the history of Latino students who now comprise the majority of Texas public school students.

In a statement released after today's vote, Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said, “While we would have preferred a state elective course that recognized the substantial way in which Mexican-Americans, African-American, women and others have shaped Texas and our nation, today's vote represents an important step toward ensuring that more students get a fuller understanding of our history and the diverse cultures that have shaped it. Just four years ago this board was divided how or even whether students should learn about American heroes like Cesar Chavez, Thurgood Marshall and Dolores Huerta. So we’re encouraged by this progress, especially as we look ahead to the state board’s adoption of social studies textbooks for our public schools later this year.”

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